Why Eagle Never Took Off

Chrysler's confused captive import company

7w ago

Eagle's story starts not with parent company Chrysler, but with Renault and AMC.

In an attempt to increase their market share in the US, Renault made a deal with AMC on 10 January 1979 to sell the 5 and 18 through AMC dealers as the Le Car and 18i/Sportwagon. As a result, Renault's dealer network more than quadrupled. By 1982, sales were up 200% compared to before the partnership, and Renault had a 46.4% stake in AMC.

In 1983, Renault's 9 arrived as the Alliance, with the 11 arriving as the Encore in 1984 to replace the AMC Spirit and Renault Le Car. Since the AMC Concord was also discontinued in 1983, AMC was left with just the Eagle four-wheel-drive sedan and wagon. The Alliance and Encore were very well-received at first and sold quickly, but quality issues hurt the cars' image.

Furthermore, dropping gas prices increased the demand for large cars and decreased the demand for small cars, causing Renault sales to slump. AMC sales were likewise down due to a singular model that dated back to 1980. Even though AMC owned Jeep and the new Cherokee was a success, the company still lost money hand over fist.

Renault planned to introduce their 21 and 25 models to the US as the Medallion and Premier, but Chrysler purchased Renault's stake in AMC and the other 53.6% of the company on 9 March 1987. Renault pulled out of the US market that year, but the Medallion and Premier still made it stateside.

Because production of the Medallion and Premier commenced as the purchase was taking place and Renault wasn't there to sell them, Chrysler created the Eagle brand to sell the cars under. In order to reduce confusion, the Medallion was sold as a Renault for the 1988 model year, switching to Eagle for 1989, which ended up being its final model year.

Despite sluggish sales, the Premier would last until 1992 in order to satisfy Chrysler's contractual obligation to produce 260,000 PRV V6 engines, which powered the Premier. To fulfill the obligation quicker, the Premier would also be sold as the Dodge Monaco from 1990 to 1992 to garner more sales. Replacing the Premier was the Vision, which was based on the Dodge Intrepid.

The rest of Eagle's lineup for the rest of the brand's life consisted of captive imports from Mitsubishi. The Eagle Summit was based on the Mitsubishi Mirage, the Summit Wagon was based on the Expo LRV, and the Talon was based on the Eclipse. Canada-exclusive models consisted of the Colt-based Vista, Space Wagon-based Vista Wagon, and Galant-based 2000GTX.

Eagle was created so that those visiting former AMC-Jeep-Renault dealers could have a greater variety of cars to choose from. It was originally marketed as "sporty" and "European", but when the Premier and Medallion were replaced by the Dodge Intrepid-based Vision, not a single Eagle was from Europe.

Further issues were that every car in Eagle's range from 1993 onward was sold under at least two different names, so the brand was a pointless redundancy experiencing slow sales. Eagle was phased out starting in 1995, with the Summit discontinued in 1995 and the Talon and Vision following suit in 1997. The brand was officially discontinued in 1999 following Chrysler's merger with Daimler. A second-generation Vision was planned for 1999, but never arrived.

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Comments (13)

  • Even though the Talon and Vision were essentially “badge-engineered” versions, I found them better looking than their brethren from Mitsubishi and Chrysler. Cheers!

      1 month ago
    • As did I. The Talon and Vision were visually similar but more appealing

        1 month ago
  • A marque that never actually made anything but badges...

      1 month ago
  • Good article.

    Obscure cars are always an interesting read.👍

      1 month ago
  • Am I the only one who loves the fact that the car that ended Renault was called the "Encore"!

      1 month ago
  • Nice pun

      1 month ago